When I was seventeen, a pastor told me I reminded him of Gideon from the Bible. Looking back, I’m pretty sure he meant that God would use me to do big things, but at the time I could only remember the part of Gideon’s story where he asked God to perform a minor miracle with a fleece. In my mind, it showed a lack of faith on Gideon’s part, an audacious attempt to test God. I was naturally offended.
I believed the gospel. I believed in the goodness and the power of God. I believed He had a plan for my life. And if He commanded me to do something—no matter how difficult or dangerous—I’d do it. No questions asked. I didn’t need God to show me any miracle as a prerequisite. I had faith.
Since those obnoxious teenage years, I’ve wanted to wake up to sopping wet fleeces more times than I can count. I’ve been uncertain about God’s direction. I’ve wanted my doubts appeased. I’ve wanted to witness a miracle or two to quicken my wilting faith. Now, instead of seeing Gideon as weak, I see him as human—someone just like me.
After those two nights with the fleece project, Gideon obeyed the Lord and did what he was told, even when it seemed silly (like the whole troop selection process that involved choosing men who drank their water like dogs). But nowhere in the story are we given permission to think that Gideon’s victory over the Midianites had anything to do with his own skill or strength. Gideon’s “army” of three hundred men defeated their enemies because God fought for them. Gideon’s obedience was not a condition for the saving of Israel, as if God needs any human being to accomplish His purposes. In that light, the episode with the fleece is an invitation, God saying, “Gideon, join me in what I am about to do!”
I don’t believe we are supposed to read Gideon’s story as a template for discerning God’s will or learning to follow Him through life’s more difficult challenges. Rather, we are to read Gideon’s story for what it is: an account of the way God chose to meet one particular man at one particular time in history. The Lord knew Gideon’s mind and precisely what he needed to step out on the road before him. God granted Gideon a fleece (twice) because that was the way His perfectly good heart would best meet Gideon’s failing heart. But what is best for one person is not best for every person.
God is good all the time, and while He makes no promise of miracle-provisions to smooth over our doubts, He invites us to come to Him with our rough edges and our questions. As Jesus once told a group of scribes and Pharisees, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). Thankfully, we serve a God who didn’t wait for us to have our acts together.
Written by John Greco